As we have heard rumored for the past few days, Jeremy Hellickson was indeed traded to a National League team as of Friday night. That team turned out to be the Arizona Diamondbacks. In return, the Rays received two prospects in outfielder Justin Williams and shortstop Andrew Velazquez.
This move represents the final chapter in Hellickson’s fall from grace with the Rays. Formerly a consensus top 10 prospect in baseball, Hellickson seemed well on his way to living up to his potential after his first two full seasons. From 2011-2012, Hellickson posted a 3.02 ERA over 366.0 innings, garnering a rookie of the year award along the way. However, there were some warning flags that those seasons were too good to be true, as indicated by Hellickson’s 4.44 and 4.60 FIP in 2011 and 2012 respectively.
Hellickson proceeded to implode in 2013, posting a 5.17 ERA in 2012 and even briefly losing his rotation spot. To make matters worse, offseason elbow surgery cost Hellickson a large chunk of his 2014 season, and he ultimately made just 13 starts. He did not fare particularly well in those either, posting a 4.52 ERA.
Ultimately the Rays faced a tough decision. They could deal Hellickson now while he still had some value, or they could wait to deal him in hopes that he rebounded but also risk that his value fell even further. In the end the Rays got the chance to add a couple of intriguing players, and they took it.
Williams, 19, won the Short Season Pioneer League batting title this year, and he slashed a cumulative .351/.403/.467 in 46 the games in Pioneer League and 26 games in the Low-A Midwest League. The former second round pick is said to possess great raw power, but he has work to do with his plate approach to get it to show up consistently in games. Defensively he is adequate in left field, but nothing too spectacular. He is generally ranked somewhere in the 10-15 range in Diamondbacks’ top prospects list.
Velazquez, 20, had a solid season at Low-A in 2014, hitting .290/.367/.428 while stealing 50 bases. His plate approach made significant progress this season, but he still has some work to do with eliminating the swing-and-miss from his game. He should hit for contact and some gap power in the future, and his plus speed makes his offense play up. That speed also makes him a solid defender at shortstop, where he is likely to stick. He does have significant work to do with learning the intricacies of the position. Like Williams, he is generally ranked in the top 10-15 Diamondbacks prospects.
This is certainly a risky trade for the Rays- if Hellickson rebounds they could look silly, but it also could turn out to be a coup for the Rays. While both Williams and Velazquez are years off from the big leagues, both could be everyday players down the road. For the Rays, that was too much to pass up given the risk that Hellickson’s value could have fallen even further with another rough year.
Chris Cotillo was the first to report a deal was close. Jon Heyman reported that the deal was finalized. Marc Topkin noted that the Rays were receiving two prospects, and and Nick Piecoro said Williams and Velazquez were heading to the Rays.